By Megan Boatwright
Channel 3 Eyewitness News Reporter
CLEVELAND, BRADLEY COUNTY (WRCB) -- A home is gutted. A family's belongings ruined from a fire accidentally set by a curious little boy.
It's the second fire in as many weeks, started by a child who was playing with a cigarette lighter. The boy's grandfather says he doesn't know how he'll put his life back together again.
Gene Foust says his son-in-law and twin grandsons were the only people home Monday.
One of the boys found a lighter and went into a bedroom alone. Foust says his home is his pride and joy and he's devastated by what happened.
Sadness seems to reverberate through the walls of Gene Foust's home Tuesday, but nowhere does it speak louder than on his face.
"I just sat at work and cried," he says of when he got the news that his house was on fire. "I decided it was time to come home a couple of hours later."
For a man in the habit of keeping his home spotless, the charred remains of his bedroom are almost too much to take.
"I've lost everything," he says with tears in his eyes. "It's just like losing a sibling, that's how I feel about my home."
What's even more devastating is how the fire started. "One of my little grandson's got a candle lighter to light candles with," he says. "He set the bed on fire."
Foust was at work when he got the call. His son-in-law and twin 5-year-old grandsons have been living with him.
"I've been taking care of them," he says. "Their daddy is sick. He's 28-years-old and can't work. I've been trying to work and take care of them the best I can."
Money has been tight. Foust recently fell behind on house insurance payments. After reporting the fire to the insurance company he says he got word Tuesday that his policy is canceled.
With smoke and water damage throughout the house the work ahead is clear. The more difficult question is how?
"Maybe some friends or somebody will help me clean it up," he says. How will he rebuild?
"I just gotta work harder I guess," he says.
Finally, how he'll eventually move on?
"I'm strong," he says. "I think."
The Bradley County Fire Department says it's unlikely the 5-year-old will face any criminal charges.
If you would like to help Gene Faust or other fire victims like him you can donate to the Hiwassee Red Cross at www.hiwasseeredcross.org. Or you can call them at 423-472-1595.